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Literature: Battle Royale
Could you kill your best friend?

What we went through...all those deaths must never lose their importance. We don't have much, but what we have has to work. Never forget...never cheapen their deaths by pushing the memory away. Even the worst of them deserved better.

In the Greater East Asia Republic (a fascist alternate-timeline Japan), one class of high school students is chosen at random every six months, kidnapped, and placed in an isolated area with no chance of escape. The students are then given one weapon each and, under the threat of death, forced to kill each other until only one student is left alive. This is a once-controversial but now regularly recurring military experiment (since 1947) known only as "the Program". Battle Royale describes the ordeals and struggles of the 'contestants' in one such class, centering on the attempts of aspiring rock musician and orphaned teenager Shuya Nanahara to escape the Program.

Originally a novel by Koushun Takami, Battle Royale was adapted into a live-action movie and a Door Stopper manga series (it has over 3000 pages). The plots of these adaptations have minor differences, but with the same general events occurring. An American remake was announced in 2006, but has been stuck in Development Hell for reasons that should be fairly obvious.

One of the main themes of this book/manga/movie is the fear and hatred of the young. Some Japanese government officials completely missed this and blamed Battle Royale for the sharp rise in teenage delinquency in Japan.

The term has been used to refer to The Hunger Games — a book series with a similar premise to Battle Royale — in a derogatory manner by those who feel the later series was a rip off (the author of The Hunger Games maintains she knew nothing of Battle Royale when she wrote her books, and at any rate, there have been works before Battle Royale which use similar themes - even Stephen King has written two).

This novel, film and manga provide examples of:

  • Acceptable Feminine Goals and Traits: It's most apparent just after Noriko's dream sequence, where she tells Kawada how she was expected to just leave school, find a man, be a Housewife and live a normal, boring life. Now however, with all this, she realises that even if she does somehow survive (and remember that her protector, Shuya, is missing at this point) then nothing will ever be the same again.
  • Action Survivor: Noriko and Shuya, just barely in Shuya's case.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The film distills the original novel down to feature length.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The manga expands the characters from the novel a lot (though whether this is a good thing or not is hotly contested among fans), as well as the fight scenes.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • Kinpatsu Sakamochi was a sadistic rapist who often cracked jokes at the expense of the students that died in the Program. Kitano, his counterpart from the film, while still no saint, is shown to be more sympathetic. He often dealt with students that disrespected him and a daughter that wanted nothing to do with him. He even tried to make sure Noriko won because she was the only student that showed respect for him.
    • Hirono Shimizu, while not evil in the novel, she wasn't very nice either. In the manga, she was open to the idea of joining Shuya's rebellion, and it was taken even further in the film where she called Mitsuko out for killing Megumi, the latter of whom she bullied in the novel.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Happens to Kiriyama in the film. He goes from an Empty Shell that kills people because he doesn't know right from wrong, to an Ax-Crazy maniac that signed up for The Program for fun.
  • Adult Fear: The plot revolves around a highschool class being sent on a deserted island and forced to kill each other. And there's nothing you could really do about it, as well; two of the adult characters protested against it in the book and manga, resulting in one getting brutally killed and the other getting raped to silence her. Yikes.
  • Adults Are Useless:
    • The parents and government of Japan allow this to happen doing absolutely nothing to stop it. In fact, the Defense Forces are the ones that had the idea and carries out the sick games. Admittedly however, protesting tends to get you shot in the head or arrested, as the Government are wont to showcase at every opportunity.
    • On a more personal level, Shiori Kitano and the film version of Shuya consider their parents (particularly their fathers) to have failed them in that role.
  • The Ace: Kiriyama, especially in the novel. He can apparently keep up with Shuya in basketball, mastered the violin better than Oda at a young age, can keep up with Hiroki in martial arts, and as the manga puts it; has an intuitive grasp on everything. He may be even better at all those activities since he has no drive to do anything, meaning he wasn't even trying.
    • Possibly moreso in the manga, since he's able to master just about anything just by seeing it.
  • Affectionate Parody: The name "Takako Chigusa", which is a shout out to women's Professional Wrestling. The classroom scene in all versions, and the evil instructor Kinpatsu Sakamochi's name is a parody of the heroic teacher Kinpachi Sensei. Naturally this will be lost on Western viewers, hence the occasional misinterpretation of the classroom scene in the film as Narm.
  • All There in the Manual: Several of the students' weapons weren't seen in the film version, however what they were given was confirmed in promotional materials released in Japan along with the film.
  • All-Loving Hero: Shuya. Heck, the guy is so innocent and wonderful, he actually manages to convert and save the souls of several crazy / bad people by giving them emotional speeches (before they die, of course).
  • Alternate History: The backstory, at least in the original novel and the manga, is that Japan still has a military dictatorship past World War II—in fact, it looks like it had one back in 1917. The first Battle Royale Program took place as early as 1947, shortly after the Japanese victory. In other words, it's become so commonplace by the time the story takes place (in 1997, at least in the novel) that no one really cares. The movie takes place in modern Japan, but Twenty Minutes into the Future after an economic collapse and sharp rise in juvenile crime. Which is better depends on who in the fandom you're talking to.
  • Artistic Age: A lot of the characters in the manga do not even remotely resemble people in their 20's, let alone junior high school students. Shogo Kawada with his beard is the most unrealistically adult-looking character, while Yutaka Seto (who is about one or two years younger) looks like he's ten.
    • And the hyper-sexualized manga version of Mitsuko looks and acts like she's in her 20s.
  • Artistic License - Chemistry: Cyanide poisoning renders a person unable to use oxygen. It does not make you vomit blood.
    • Although it's very possible the poison was augmented in some way before it was given out as a weapon.
  • Artistic License - Military: Not the guns (which are well-researched and realistic), but the Bullet Proof Vest, which takes the name rather more literally than it ought to. A bulletproof vest that a kid could wear and fight in might stop a .357 pistol round fired from a few feet away — it might even stop seven — but it would feel like being bludgeoned with a brick wrapped in a slice of lemon. It would also be of questionable use against the Ingram, Winchester, and shotgun and is worthless against knives. Also, their protection tends to get worse when they get shot. It could have been reinforced with ceramic and metal strike plates, but these are uncommon in real life because of their weight and cumbersomeness for adults, let alone kids.
  • Audible Sharpness: In the film. When Kitano pulls his knife out of Fujiyoshi's skull, it inexplicably makes a metallic sound.
  • Author Appeal: Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen gets quite a number of mentions due to being a song the author loves.
  • Ax-Crazy: Several students become like this, if they weren't already psychotic before being kidnapped. Yoshio Akamatsu and Kazushi Niida are the most prominent examples. Some just go insane from the stress and paranoia, like Kaori. The Program director in the novel and manga takes great delight in seeing the students suffer and die. On the other hand, Kazuo Kiriyama is so terrifying because he's not like that. For him, killing his classmates is no different than playing a sport or a musical instrument. Most of the Ax-Crazy people are violent idiots who don't survive for very long.
  • Badass: About a half of the main cast: Shogo Kawada, Shinji Mimura, Kazuo Kiriyama and Hiroki Sugimura, each in their own right. Among the girls, Mitsuko Souma and Takako Chigusa, who, at the point of the game that Niida found her, was the only girl without a gun or/and well-armed allies in the island. Still, trying to assault her was a bad idea.
  • Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: Kazuo Kiriyama manages to do this when he kills Mitsuko who happens to use sympathy and her body as a weapon. This makes her a perfect counter for someone like Shuya, and since Kiriyama is an Empty Shell that can't be seduced, he manages to kill her before she can kill any other students.
  • Better to Die Than Be Killed: Sakura and Kazuhiko. Yuko as well, during her Freak Out.
  • Big Bad: The supervisor in all three versions. The secondary antagonists (among the students) are Mitsuko and Kazuo.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Kawada gets this trope multiple times. First, against the school president Kyoichi saving Shuya. Later, once again, in the manga, saving Shuya from Kaori.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Shuya and Noriko have survived, meaning the Program has failed for the first time ever, and Shogo has found peace at last, but everyone else is dead, including Kitano, and they're doomed to live the rest of their lives as fugitives. And while The Program has failed, they didn't completely stop it from happening again... so it's likely that, in six months, another class will be chosen and submitted to it. And again and again.
    • Further emphasized by the events of Battle Royale II.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: Many of the subtitling attempts at the film version tend to localise very badly. (Channel 4 and the producers of the Korean Starmax version, here's looking at you!)
    • The 2012 North American DVD/Blu-ray edition features some of the worst English dubbing ever, and the dialogue often doesn't even come close to the translation given in the subtitles.
  • Blood Upgrade: In the movie, Takako doesn't go off at Niida when he points his crossbow at her and threatens to shoot, but when he grazes her face with a crossbow bolt.
  • Boom, Headshot: Common in the Manga(along with an eye is blown out of its socket by the sheer force.)
  • Break the Cutie: Pretty much all the students. Of course excluding Mitsuko, Yoshimi, and Yuko, who came pre-broken.
  • Broken Bird: Mitsuko, Yuko and Yoshimi.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Numai's gang in the film fall victim to this, though in their defence (a) it's reasonable to assume that 3 people with guns and a fourth with grenades are going to win in a fight against a guy "armed" with a paper fan and (b) in the film version they don't know how just how dangerous Kazuo actually is. Hirono also makes the mistake in the film by not killing Mitsuko on one of the very rare occasions on which she was actually caught vulnerable. Unlike Numai, Hirono can't justify her actions with the belief that Mitsuko was unarmed, because it's clear Hirono knows her well enough that she realise know such problems don't stop a person like Mitsuko.
  • Bottomless Magazines: In the manga Kiriyama only changes magazine once and fires hundred of rounds.
    • Averted by anyone who isn't Kiriyama.
    • In the novel it's justified since he changes weapons and steals his victim's weapon.
    • He's seen reloading in the film as well, though not all that often.
  • Bowdlerise: Inevitable for TV showings or those in countries with strict laws regarding violence in films, but the German version was probably the most severe when it came to cuts, cutting back many of the deaths. The director himself produced a version like this though, for release to under 15s in his home country.
  • Bullet Proof Vest: Oda's "weapon"; he lets people shoot him, plays dead, then strangles them when they check to make sure he's down. In all three versions, Kiriyama kills him and takes the vest for himself near the end. (In the film, he's only there long enough for Kiriyama to do him in.)
  • The Cameo: Sonny Chiba turns up for a scene as Mimura's uncle in the second film (although the character is already dead before Battle Royale, according to the original novel).
  • Characters Dropping Like Flies: Every students' death is announced by the Big Bad, and by the end only two students remain.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In the manga, Shogo Kawada remembers that they left a shotgun in a field when ambushed earlier by Kiriyama. He manages to shoot Kiriyama, but it doesn't work.
    • Furthermore, Sugimura gives Yukie a throwing knife to give to Shuya when he wakes up. Later, during Shuya's final fight with Kiriyama, he uses it to blinds Kiriyama in the same eye that Kiriyama had blinded Sugimura in during their last fight, though Shuya wouldn't have known that.
  • Chick Magnet:
    • Shuya. Quite a large portion of the girls in the manga were revealed to have crushes on him. Noriko, Yukie, Hirono, Yukiko and Yumiko were all shown to like him. And according to Yukie, "half the girls in class are sweet on him," indicating that other girls other than the aforementioned probably harbored an attraction to him as well.
    • Shinji had been a womanizer when we first see him. The manga even shows his first appearance as playing basketball and wondering if he has enough condoms to do the whole crowd of fangirls.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Kazuo, Mitsuko, and a few other students are this.
  • The Cracker: In a slightly more heroic example, formerly Playful Hacker Shinji Mimura decides to use his skills for something a bit more serious after being forced into the Program. In all three versions, he attempts to hack into the government's computer system to disable the collars in order to make an escape attempt: he is caught in the manga and novel versions halfway through his plan due to the microphones in the collars; but in the movie, he does succeed in doing so. His uncle, particularly in the manga version, is also an example.
    • Actually, in the end, Kitano realizes that Kawada, and not Mimura, hacked into the game's intranet system months beforehand.
  • Crapsack World: All three versions make it pretty clear that that's what the world has become, though the sequel to the film suggests that in the film continuity things aren't quite as bad as they are in the novel/manga, both of which have a 1984 type feel to them.
  • Creepy Doll: Mitsuko's alter ego is a giant damaged doll, the same as the one she was given as her mother remarried. Mai's doll also counts, being seen briefly in the first film and again in the second when it's packed with explosives and hurled at a group of attacking soldiers.
  • Cruel Twist Ending: Hirono Shimizu's manga death.
    • It appears that Shogo had made it out of the Program and would escape with Shuya and Norkio... until he dies of a gunshot wound Kazuo gave him in the arena.
  • Cultural Translation: Keith Giffen's work on the manga. Also counts as Pragmatic Adaptation to an extent, considering the things that most people find fault with (unrealistic references to Western pop culture) could only be avoided by resorting to Viewers Are Geniuses.
  • Cute Kitten: Many kittens pop up in the story:
    • Shuya and Noriko find a cute kitten, play with it as they comment about how cute it is. Then they are attacked by Oki.
    • In the novel and manga Kaori is driven mad by the violence and she shoots a kitten with her gun, thinking "Even kittens want to kill me!"
    • Hiroki has a flashback about Kayoko when he took with him a very young kitten in the street, hiding it in his desk and wondering why it is meowing so much. Kayoko teaches him that he must rub its crotch with a warm wet towel to make it pee.
  • Decoy Protagonist: In the novel, Shinji is shown as being a near-perfect student in a clear attempt to not make it obvious that Shuya is. Thus, Shinji's death in the middle of the book is a huge surprise, after which no attempt is made to hide Shuya's hero status. While this is a commendable idea in theory, it meant turning Shinji into a total Mary Sue. No surprise therefore that the idea was dropped for the film (with Shinji's death becoming a climactic action sequence and in fact the English translation of the book even has on its cover two silhouettes who are blatantly meant to be Shuya and Noriko).
    • In the manga, Shuya spends a lot of time reassuring everyone that Shinji's going to come up with a plan to get them all off the island. Finding his body is a big factor in Shuya's epic Heroic BSOD.
  • Deadly Game: The Program.
  • Dead Star Walking: Yoshitoki Kuninobu is introduced as Shuya's best friend and comic relief, and it seems like he'll be at Shuya's side for the duration of the series... until he's killed during the Program briefing. Defied by Executive Meddling in the film, as a major Japanese star was going to play the boy, before his managers decided it would be dangerous to his career and forbade him from accepting the role.
    • The character of Mitsuko is depicted for much of the film as one of the lead villains (and was played by a well-known teen singing star), but she's killed off suddenly 3/4 of the way through the movie when she encounters Kiriyama, a student she can't seduce or overpower, and gets shot dead..
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Shiori in the second film, as she comes to a greater understanding of herself and the relationship between her father and Noriko.
  • Demoted to Extra: For time constraint reasons, a lot of the characters were given offscreen deaths or given less screen time in general in the film. Particularly Sho Tsukioka.
    • Some of these characters' cause of deaths were also changed.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Sho Tsukioka is effeminate in manner but humorously masculine in appearance and uses his skills as a Stalker with a Crush to tail Kiriyama. He's also a borderline alcoholic drag queen with an irrational crush on Kiriyama and overall thinks like a total lunatic in the manga.
  • Determinator: Shinji Mimura and Hiroki Sugimura in the manga. While his initial plan to cripple The Program failed, Mimura is able to come up with his bomb plan which is only foiled by the Implacable Man. Sugimura also tracks down two people on the island thanks to his tracking device. Unfortunately, he finds the first girl too late and is once more stopped by the Implacable Man.
    • Also Mitsuko, more so in the film when she continues to get up even though Kiriyama is firing bullets in her.
  • Deus Angst Machina: Mitsuko's past, especially in the novel/movie.
  • Dissonant Serenity: The Big Bad casually explains the rules in all versions he also kills a few students in a calm manner.
    • It's possibly even worse in the film, in which an instructional video featuring a Genki Girl joyfully explains the rules to the students.
  • Divided We Fall: In the book, this turns out to be the whole point of the program. Every six months, everyone in Japan gets to see a broadcast giving the body count of a particular runthrough, categorized by means of death. They all have it ingrained in their minds that the people they grew up with are willing to kill them to survive. If they can't trust each other, they can't coordinate effectively to overthrow the government. Additionally, the government is seeking to actively recruit the winners as people callous and self-interested enough to maintain control.
  • Door Stopper
  • Double Tap: How Kiriyama kills Oda.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: Shogo Kawada does this quite a lot.
  • Due to the Dead: In the novel, whenever Shuya finds someone who died with their eyes open, he closes their eyes. Well, except for one character who's been so mutilated his head resembles a peanut—only one of his eyes will close properly, and as the narration observes, a winking mutilated corpse is just too much.
  • Dying Declaration of Love: Two characters do this before they get killed off. Several others get a moment to ask the other character with them who they liked.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: The two cars in the chase sequence at the end of the novel/manga.
  • Everyone Trying to Kill You: Most of the students actually decide to play the game, but Shuya doesn't seem to realize this.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Manga only but when Yuichiro tries to befriend and understand Mitsuko she believes that he is trying to gain her trust only to sleep with her. Whilst prepared for that situation she is taken by surprise that he genuinely wants to help her even when he reaches towards her she believes he is going to try to feel her up and is surprised that he is just removing the belt tying her hands up so she can have a drink. Of course this depends on whether you believe she actually is pure evil which she probably isn't.
  • Explosive Leash, Your Head A Splode: If someone tries to leave the island, the collar that they are wearing explodes, along with their head. Ditto for trying to remove the collar, or lingering in a danger zone. Also, if 24 hours pass with nobody being killed, everyone's collars will go simultaneously. In the novel and manga, it only makes one victim, Sho. In the film, Yoshitoki is the only victim.
    • Well, Kiriyama does get shot in his explosive collar at the climax, which is what finally kills him.
  • Eye Scream: Hiroki and Kiriyama. Makes you wonder why Hiroki bothered making those spearheads. Niida receives some of this from Takako in the novel and manga too. And, in the manga, Jaguar.
  • Fan Disservice: There are lots of scenes with any of the girls naked, but the fact that they're with dirty old men isn't exactly arousing and their age.
  • Five-Man Band: The lighthouse girls, who were a clique before they were put in the Program.
  • Finger-Licking Poison: Yuka dies by grabbing a sample of a dish meant for someone else.
  • Flanderization: The manga does this to some of the novel's characters (and the movie to Kiriyama). The good guys are very beautiful, while two of the bad guys are hideous and irredeemably evil. Kazushi Niida is a big victim of this - in the novel, he was merely a horny teenage boy who tried to rape Chigusa when they were alone; in the manga, Niida was portrayed as a monster from the beginning. Toshinori Oda was also extremely Flanderized: he's a grotesque little goblin.
    • Mitsuko Souma's ultra-sexual portrayal is an actual rapist in the manga (the novel and film leave it more open about whether she goes that far). Kazuo Kiriyama, however, was massively Flanderized in the film. His Axe Crazy streak is so magnified that it becomes his only characteristic; in the original novel he has a group of friends and can at least put up a facade of normalcy.
    • Sho's Camp Gay-ness is taken Up to Eleven in the manga. Asides from just being concerned with his appearance, he acts and speaks in an overly flamboyant, effeminate manner (for example, saying "drinky-poo" and wearing a zebra print suit, along with lipstick) and is shown making sexual advances towards Ryuji, a misogynistic regular in the bar his dad runsnote . His stalker tendencies are also ramped up, to the point where the notes state he has a tendency to develop irrational crushes on heterosexual man.
  • Foreign Language Title
  • Freudian Excuse: Mitsuko in the manga, who uses being betrayed as a child as a mental excuse to slaughter her classmates. But then, she rationally doesn't have any other choice than kill or be killed...
    • Similar for Kiriyama, except he actually has severe brain damage.
  • Gangsta Style: In the manga, this is how Kazuo Kiriyama fires every single weapon. Apparently, genius though he may be, he fails to realize that this is a highly ineffective method of firing a handgun, to say nothing of firing an automatic weapon. However, this is sometimes an Averted Trope due to a few instances where he appears to fire normally.
  • Genre-Busting: The film is notoriously hard to classify, and the novel is no better. Some consider it horror due to the premise, but that classification always causes "traditional" horror fans to balk because it isn't traditional. Action-adventure may be better, but the satire and themes make it a little misleading. In Western DVD stores the problem is mooted by its placing in the World Cinema section anyway, with the novel being classified by bookstores as sci-fi, presumably due to the Speculative Fiction and Alternate History aspects.
  • Girl with Psycho Weapon: Mitsuko with that sickle - the image of her smiling in Megumi's doorway, shining the torch upwards into her face and grinning maniacally is one of the most iconic from the film.
  • Gonk: Kamon in the manga. He was so inhumanly ugly he clashed with the manga's art style. To be fair, pre-pubescent children are notoriously tough to draw (even by professionals) without making them look too old or produce an Uncanny Valley effect, assuming the artist is aiming for some sense of realism (which Taguchi does).
  • Gorn: Often believed to be played straight, but actually subverted — the film is shockingly violent in order to, well, shock. The fact that this is happening to teenagers, and at the hands of their own friends/classmates is in no way meant to titillate, it's meant to horrify. Sadly, many people fail to realise this and believe it's a straight up gorefest.
    • The same could be said of the manga, though the artist was a little too eager with the gruesome images, so whether or not it achieves the same purpose is up to interpretation.
  • Gotta Kill Them All: To win the Program.
  • Groin Attack Used by Chigusa against Niida after his attack on her fails.
  • Hacked by a Pirate: The brief glimmer of hope that was the hacking scene featured a chibi-style basketball player dominating the monitors at BR headquarters.
  • Hair Colors: In the live-action movie, Kazuo Kiriyama's hair is a bright red colour, allegedly to highlight his importance and deliquence. Takako Chigusa's hair is dyed blond in the manga, and Hirono Shimizu's is blue.
  • Handsome Lech: Shinji Mimura. His marked misogynistic tendencies don't seem to get in the way of this at all.
  • Hand Wave: The film largely handwaves the premise, which is extremely flawed, by vaguely explaining it in 30 seconds of a 2 hour film and then never touching politics again.
  • Heartwarming Moments: Takako Chigusa's death scene, in Hiroki's arms. Despite having brutally murdered a guy moments beforehand (admittedly, in self defence), she's the object of nothing but sympathy from the audience in her final moments as she begs God for just a few more moments in the world with her best friend and true love. In the manga, it's especially heartbreaking since she has flashbacks from the time when she and Hiroki were kids together.
    • Shinji and Yutaka's reconciliation in the manga had a healthy dose of this, until Kiriyama dropped by.
    • All of the manga's flashbacks with Shuuya. Especially the one in volume five.
  • Help Mistaken for Attack: Hiroki tries to help save his crush, but the minute he approaches her in the game she shoots him down, mistaking it for attack.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: In the second film, Shibaki and Osamu each pull one in short succession.
  • Hollywood Hacking: Complete with Rapid-Fire Typing in what appears to be perfectly valid C, but arguably a subversion since the source code is that of Nmap, a network scanning tool in common usage for penetration testing.
  • Hope Spot: Lots of them, most notably Hiroki Sugimura's death.
  • A House Divided: The girls in the lighthouse.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: The entire plot of the story.
  • Idiot Hero: Shuya Nanahara. Despite all of the events, losing his best friend and numerous others throughout the course of the Program, still believes that there is good in everyone, even going so far as to trying to save Kiriyama after shooting him in the throat in the manga. This is similarly backed up in several character backstories, where Shuya comes rushing in without prior thought and doing something stupid that earns him respect. Shogo makes mention of Shuya's foolishness many, many times.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Lampshaded in the YMMV English translation of the manga: in the beginning of the car chase, when Shogo kicks away the windshield so he doesn't have to "dodge flying glass", he hands Shuuya his Uzi, recommending him to not "go all Marvin in Pulp Fiction" with the weapon.
  • Implacable Man: Kazuo Kiriyama. In all three versions, he just keeps coming...and he can't be reasoned with.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Mai in the sequel, with her explosive-laden doll.
  • In Spite of a Nail: In the novel, even though a totally different political situation replaced the Cold War as we know it, it didn't stop Armstrong from being the first man on the moon, or the rock music scene turning exactly in the same way as in our world, with the same stars.
    • The totalitarian fascist government also appears to tolerate the otaku subculture (Yuichiro), and flamboyant homosexuality (Sho). (Though it might be in the same way as they "tolerate" rock music).
      • The Director in the book version makes some comment about how those degenerate Americans allow homosexuality, so it's probably not all roses for gay people.
      • And in the manga, a brief government-written overview of Sho remarks that he must not be allowed to leave the island alive because of his homosexuality due to issues with "genetic impurity."
  • Intimate Healing: In some twisted part of her mind, this is what Mitsuko thought she was doing to a bleeding/dying Yuichiro in the manga.
  • It Gets Easier: Niida doesn't quite lampshade it, but he clearly tries to make clear to Chigusa that having killed before accidentally, he's now in a position to do so again, deliberately.
    • In the film, Mitsuko makes several statements to the effect that she killed before the game even started (as shown in the Special Edition version of the film), and so killing again is no big deal to her.
  • Joke Weapon: Some students got completely useless weapons, like Yutaka's fork, Noriko's boomerang, Yumiko's darts, Shuya's pot lid and (in the movie) Kiriyama's paper fan.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: Used in the film, where Kazuo uses it against Oda. When the target is wearing a bullet proof vest, an Uzi isn't of much use (in the novel, he simply shoots Oda in the face). Such a pity he had to tell his assailant what had saved his life... Technically of course it isn't a katana, but a Wakizashi, but the principle still applies.
  • Kill 'em All: Only two students manage to escape The Program.
  • Kill the Ones You Love: Could you kill your best friend?
  • Large Ham: Taku in the second film; almost everything he says he shouts. Granted, he's rather tame in comparison to Riki Takeuchi, the 'teacher' in the same film. Seriously, check out his best moments (moderate spoilers).
  • Leave No Survivors
  • Lemony Narrator: The book's narrator lapses into this whenever someone's about to die or has just died.
    She might have been dead before [she hit the ground]. Physically, several seconds earlier. Emotionally, several years earlier.
  • Lighthouse Point: At one point a bunch of the girls get holed up in a lighthouse.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: A whopping total of forty-two students are press-ganged into The Program. A few of them are killed off immediately and without being developed (moreso in the movie version), but the rest get their own chapters (usually involving a flashback to their days at school). The second film is the same, but kills off many more straight away so as to only focus on half a dozen or so main characters.
  • Lonely Piano Piece: Shiori Kitano plays "Memories" in the second film, the scene cutting between her abuse of her late father in the past, and as she is now in the present.
  • Lucky Bastard: Kazuo Kiriyama. Despite starting out with a paper fan in the movie, he ends up amassing the highest bodycount out of the whole class - with twelve - mostly by stealing the weapons of those he meets, including hand grenades, a bulletproof vest, a sword and his weapon of choice: his uzi/submachine gun. Of course, his luck runs out once his collar takes a bullet but, all that aside, the students he meets gives him a vast equipment advantage.
  • Made of Plasticine: The manga version is extremely graphic. Kegfuls of blood are spilled, brains are frequently blown out, one character is disemboweled, and another is torn in half when she hits the ground after she jumps off a lighthouse. According to some, even blows the infamous Elfen Lied out of the water. Two examples:
    • When Shinji Mimura dies, he is machine gunned, causing his stomach to split open and his intestines to fall out of his body. He puts them back in with duct tape, has the bottom half of his foot blown off, jumps through a window, has a clip from an ingram emptied into him, is still alive enough to aim at Kiriyama, who shoots him through the throat, and we learn later he was alive enough to carve a message into a truck with a nail.
    • Kazuo Kiriyama, shot through the arm, cuts into his arm and sellotapes a tendon onto his arm so his finger works, later, jumps out of car at high speed, jumps out of a second car while it's in mid-air after being shotgunned. Is shot in the stomach at close range by a shotgun (his bullet proof jacket protects him). Is shot through the cheek and out the back of his head, has his eye put out by a wooden spear head, and is finally killed by a bullet through the throat, though it takes him a while to die.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Tatsumichi Ōki in the film, after getting his own axe stuck in his head.
    "I'm okay, I'm okay!"
  • Martial Pacifist: Hiroki Sugimura.
  • Mood Whiplash: Niida's extremely brutal attack on Chigusa and her equally violent defense, followed by her gut-wrenchingly tragic death scene moments later.
    • An even bigger one comes when Yutaka forgives Shinji for accidentally killing one of their classmates, and chooses to stick with him, bringing Shinji to tears as they reaffirm their partnership. Cue a barrage of bullets coming from nowhere and ripping through Yutaka's head and Shinji's stomach.
  • More Dakka: In the movie, Kiriyama dispatches quite a few people with the Uzi he takes from the first group that ambushes him. That is not to say that he doesn't use other weapons.
  • Must Not Die a Virgin: Niida in all three versions tries to persuade Chigusa of this. Unfortunately, he doesn't take "no" for an answer and becomes a bit more forceful. Yukie also acknowledges that she never would have found the courage to make moves on Shuya if not for the whole "surrounded by students trying to kill me" thing.
  • New Transfer Student: Both Kiriyama and Shogo are this in the film.
  • No Indoor Voice: There is barely a single word that Takuma Aoi in the second film doesn't shout at the top of his voice.
  • Nose Tapping: Hiroki does it.
  • Not with the Safety on, You Won't: Shogo Kawada bluffs a student this way at the end of his first game, then shoots him.
  • Obligatory Swearing: In the manga, almost every character can't seem to say a sentence without swearing.
  • OC Stand In:
    • Mayumi Tendoand Fumiyo Fujiyoshi due to the characters receiving almost no characterisation whatsoever in any of the media - including the novel (they don't live long enough for that).
    • Most of the students in the second film.
  • Offhand Backhand: Kiriyama kills Mizuho Inada this way in the novel.
  • Oh, Crap: Mitsuko's facial expression says it all when, in the movie, she slashes Kiriyama across the chest, only to discover that he's wearing a bulletproof vest...
    • Shogo Kawada in the manga, when he realizes where the bus is taking the class.
    • Just about every time a character realizes how much of an Implacable Man Kiriyama is their face looks like this.
  • Ojou: Several prominent examples of the first type, with Noriko in the film moreorless making this a Discussed Trope with her monologue to Kawada. Kotohiki certainly fits this trope, especially in the novel.
  • Older Than They Look: In the manga, most of the students in the class look a bit older than junior high students should.
  • Panty Shot: The girls sometimes expose their panties in the manga, and especially when they are killed. A few of the girls are wearing thongs, while most of them are wearing regular bikini-style panties.
  • Please Kill Me If It Satisfies You: In the novel and manga, Yoshimi, after learning that Yoji intends to kill her, tells Yoji that he can kill her. Yoji, in shock, does not kill her.
    • Also occurs with Shinji Mimura and Yutaka Seto Shinji throws his gun at Yutaka and tells him that if he can't trust him then he can shoot him if he wants to. It leads to a Heartwarming Moment where the two cry together.
  • Pop the Tires: The Grand Finale has the heroes facing off against Kiriyama in a car chase. They use guns to pop his tires and cause his car to get destroyed.
  • Power Copying: Kazuo Kiriyama in the manga adaptation. He's a genius who can perform flawlessly anything he's seen (or read about) once, and he employs this fully in his fight against Hiroki Sugimura (an accomplished Kenpo master).
  • The Power of Rock: While never actually having rocked out during the program, Shuya's reputation as an amateur rocker is what every character associates with his idealism of love and hope.
    • In the novel, this also takes the form of several shout-outs to Bruce Springsteen, particularly Born To Run.
    • Discussed with these words, when Shuya says that The Power of Rock could make the country crumble down.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Despite the many criticisms of the film version for cutting things out of the novel, the one thing just about everybody is agreed upon is that removing the political commentary was a good thing. Sadly, the sequel went in the other direction, though how badly that went down does ironically show what a good idea the treatment of politics in the original film was.
  • Psycho for Hire: Kazuo Kiriyama, in the movie.
  • Punch Clock Villain: Kitano in the film is an apathetic man going through a middle-age crisis, having realised how unhappy he is in life. Nonetheless, he's being paid to organise the mutual massacre of his own students.
  • Rasputinian Death: Kiriyama and Shinji are the best examples, though others borderline this.
  • Re Cut: Both films had an extended version made. The first's extra scenes includes a flashback to Mitsuko's past and a scene of the class playing basketball, shown in pieces throughout the film. The second film added extra characterisation to the main students and Shuya's group. The first film was also cut back so that it would pass the censors' requirements for under 15s to see it, as was the director's original intention.
  • Red Shirt: The vast majority of students receive at least some characterisation (at least in the novel and manga). Tendo and Fujiyoshi receive almost none even in those versions. In both films, almost everyone save the core eight or so and a couple of One Scene Wonders are this.
  • Rule of Scary: In the film, Kiriyama cuts a student's head off and shoves a grenade in his mouth. Just because. In the same scene, he puts his bloodied hand on the window just because.
  • Sawed-Off Shotgun: Shogo Kawada uses a sawed-off M31 Remington shotgun in the novel and manga, and a Franchi SPAS-12 combat shotgun in the movie.
  • Say It With Hearts: Various characters in the manga (obviously). Used for a variety of effects, from the very creepy to the heartwarmingly sincere.
  • Screaming Warrior: Mitsuko, during her Last Stand in the movie.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Shiroiwa, the small town the class are from, is Japanese for Castle Rock (a homage to both Stephen King and Lord of the Flies).
    • There are several homages to George Orwell's 1984 in the book.
    • There is a disturbing scene in the manga (Niida's attack on Chigusa) that the creator admitted was a Shout-Out to Deliverance.
    • While driving a car, Shogo hands Shuya a gun, asking him not to go Marvin on him. In the Giffenized version, that is.
    • In the manga, Hirono's death is a clear Shout-Out to An Occurence At Owl Creek Bridge.
    • Kinpatsu Sakamochi is a spoof of the character Kinpachi Sakamoto from the Japanese drama Year 3 Class B Kinpachi-sensei. Also, the students in the book, manga and film are Year 3 Class B.
  • Shoot Everyone That Moves: Most of the students attack others on sight, especially Kiriyama, who has no qualms about killing his classmates.
  • Show, Don't Tell: There's an entire chapter that both starts and ends with the instructor exclaiming "I'm so busy!" Either this part didn't translate well, or the author could take a lesson here.
  • Slasher Smile: Mitsuko, oh so often, with the start of her encounter with Megumi being the best example.
    • The first female winner shown at the beginning of the movie has one of these too.
    • In the movie, Kiriyama pulls this off a few times.
  • Smug Snake: Kamon and Oda both qualify.
  • Split Personality: Mitsuko basically has two sides to her. One is a child desperate for love, the other is a deranged, cynical killer.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Beautiful classical music is played over the 6 hourly announcements in the movie, a torturing counterpoint to the chaos and death taking place on the island.
    • Also in the movie, Mitsuko's death is to the tune of Bach's Air on the G String. It's Asuka's death in End of Evangelion all over again.
  • Stupid Sacrifice: Shintaro in the second film accidentally pulls this - not only does his death accomplish nothing, it gets Kazumi killed because he's her partner.
    • And let's not forget Riki's final rugby dive.
  • Supporting Leader: Shogo is this to Shuya and Noriko, especially in the film. Consider that he's the one with the dark and brooding past, he's the one with a grudge against the Program, and he's the one who knows how to stop it. He does it deliberately though, because he's not interested in his own survival, just wanting revenge and to understand what happened with Keiko. He's happy to let the others take the credit. Consider just how much Shuya and Noriko would actually accomplish (answer: nothing) without Shogo's help and you'll see how he fits.
  • Take a Moment to Catch Your Death: Shinji realizes a bit too late that either the bomb did not hit Kazuo or he's just that much of an Implacable Man. The second he feels as though it's over Kiriyama escapes from a burned down car, with not a single bit of damage.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: Played aggravatingly straight in the second film with almost every main character. We're talking several hundred soldiers storming a fortress in a heated and violent battle, all of whom suddenly have a coffee break to allow a character to make a Final Speech lasting several minutes. Then, 10 minutes later, it happens again for an even longer speech.
  • Tear Jerker: Keiko's death, in Shogo's flashback; he shoots her in the head by accident. Bits of her brain go flying as her body pitches backward, while Shogo yells her name. The fact that she dies in a very undignified position, with her thighs spread apart and her body twitching, as her urine soaks through her panties and pools on the ground in front of her crotch, makes it even more graphically brutal. Add in the following scene where Shogo grabs her dead body and screams in frustration.
  • Technical Pacifist: Sugimura subverts it; While he refuses to take Shuya's gun because "that's not my way," he's genuinely dedicated to only using his ample martial arts abilities in self defense, because he worries that if he genuinely beats someone up, he'll enjoy it.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Or they are forced to be, by adults.
    • The main question asked of the movie is a large part of the point of the story. 'Could you kill your best friend?' In a lot of ways it doesn't matter that the protagonists are teens, it's about human nature in general.
  • There Can Be Only One: The object of the Program.
  • Together in Death: Sugimura and Kotohiki in the manga. Ogawa and Yamamoto in all versions, along with Kawada and Keiko.
    • To a lesser extent, any couple who died together ( namely Yoshimi and Youji and Sakura and Kazuhiko), because, well, even if they're together before The Program, it obviously couldn't last past the game.
    • Non-romantic example: the girls' of the lighthouse "funeral", so they could be friends again in death.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Anyone that trusts Mitsuko despite her reputation.
    • Toshinori Oda in the film only, who is shot with an Uzi by Kazuo but survives because of his awesome Bullet Proof Vest. A fact he screams at the top of his voice the second he realises he's still alive. Cue Kazuo leaping off a small building beside him, wakizashi in hand.
    • He's less obviously stupid in the book and manga, but still pretty stupid—in the manga, he fakes a death rattle so Kazuo will come close to him and check if he's dead, allowing Oda to stab him with his hidden kitchen knife. Kazuo doesn't fall for this moronic ruse.
    • Practically any of the students who refuse to kill each other, given the situation they are in. Particular mention goes to Shuuya although things end well for him, kind of, and Yumiko and Yukiko, the two girls who went to a little gazebo and used a megaphone to shout out their location. Kiriyama guns them down with multiple shots.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Quite possibly an audience/reader reaction, given the chances of inadvertently finding yourself wondering if you could do it, how well you'd do, etc. Of course, the question of whether or not you could kill your best friend is the entire point.
    • It doesn't just stop there. There's also the thought of how your class would do.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Yumiko Kusaka and Yukiko Kitano, respectively, in the novel.
  • Tsundere: Chigusa, by Sugimura's account. She's more the original version, though, where as you get to know her she warms up considerably.
  • Triang Relations: There's a few of these:
    • Type 5 with Chigusa, who loves Hiroki, who secretly loves Kotohiki. Chigusa does find out when she flat out asks Hiroki if he loves her, but she's dying when she asks so, while clearly upsetting to her, it's the least of her concerns at the time. Also qualifies as a heartwarming I Want My Beloved to Be Happy moment, since she'd clearly already worked it out and was just hoping he really did love her. In the novel, when Hiroki admits that he does have crush, Takako comments that he'd better not say her (i.e. "You know better than to say it just to try to make me happy in my last moments.").
    • Type 4 is seen with Shuya, Noriko and Kuninobu; Noriko and Shuya are the Official Couple, with Kuninobu also very obviously crushing on Noriko. While Shuya's feelings for Noriko are left slightly ambiguous, this appears to be due to not wanting to go after the girl his best friend was crazy about so soon after his death. That she has feelings for him though she can't hold in, even if she does apparently feel a bit guilty about it.
    • Type 4 also occurs with Utsumi, Shuya and Noriko, as Utsumi secretly has feelings for Shuya which she tries to tell him (when he's barely conscious though so not the best time) but appears to realise he doesn't see her the same way. Admittedly we don't know for sure where she would have gone with her feelings given she and her friends massacre each other moments after their conversation
  • The Vamp: Mitsuko's strategy mainly involves gaining people's trust and getting them while their guard is down.
  • The Voiceless: Kiriyama in the film, he doesn't say a single word despite being the main antagonist.
  • Weapon of Choice: In the film, Kiriyama uses his machine gun much more often.
  • When She Smiles: Hirono, at least in the manga. When she smiled from the heart, Shuya realized that she actually wasn't such a bad person after all. Especially noticeable in this page.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Shuya and Yuichiro, though Yuichiro actually made some headway; His refusal to think of Mitsuko as a bad person genuinely touched her to the point that she had a complete mental breakdown when he was shot.
    • There is at least one recorded instance of an entire Program completely refusing to kill each other. The government decided to detonate all their collars after they avoided the hot zones and lasted two days.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Most of the students in The Program handle things better than other classes would. Not only that, each of them usually has some special skill.
  • With This Herring: A few of the weapons given out at the start. Including a megaphone, a pair of binoculars, a shamisen, and a squeaky toy hammer. Shuya's pot lid from the film is arguably a subversion, as it saves his life when he's attacked by a student with an axe.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: In the film version, Kitano the director borders on this. Sure, he sets up dozens of children to kill each other and kills two himself, but you can't help but feel sorry for him as he tries to teach those delinquents at the start of the movie.
  • Worthy Opponent: Kiriyama may or may not have seen Sugimura as this in the manga. Being the first person to significantly damage him. Even when Shuuya was throwing the knife, he was having a Call Back to Hiroki doing the same thing.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit. Mitsuko in all three versions, though the victim changes. In the novel and manga, it's Hiroki, who has captured her and intends killing her in revenge for Chigusa. A combination of her crocodile tears and his martial pacifism allow her to escape. In the film she pulls it on Hirono, though it doesn't actually work as Hirono knows her too well. Mitsuko still kills her though.
  • Villains Never Lie: Kamon boasts that he raped and murdered the head of Shuuya's orphanage, Ms. Ryoko to demoralize him. In the final chapter, Shuya, spying on the orphanage, sees her alive and well. Kamon, apparently, was just being a Troll
  • The Voice: An extremely interesting case that makes a sub-plot stretching across both films more effective. In the first film, we don't see Shiori Kitano, the teacher's daughter, we only hear her voice on the phone. In the second film, she's a main character. What adds more to this is that Kitano (senior) sees Noriko as his surrogate daughter as Shiori hates him. Noriko and Shiori are played by real life sisters, Aki and Ai Maeda (respectively).
  • Yamato Nadeshiko: Noriko Nakagawa, at least in the manga. She's sweet, feminine, a good cook, a dutiful daughter and loving sister...and stands up to, and survives, the Program (admittedly with help, but she was wounded.) Not only that, she's tough-minded enough to tell Shogo Kawada, perfectly politely, that he's tearing himself up inside for no reason, and that Keiko would have understood and forgiven him for shooting her by mistake in the previous Program. Oh, and she delivers the death-blow to Kazuo Kiriyama.
  • Your Head Asplode: What will happen to anyone caught in a danger zone. In the end, though, it only befalls one person in all versions (Shou Tsukioka in the novel and manga, and Yoshitoki Kuninobu in the film, and in the latter case, it was deliberately set off).
  • Zen Survivor: Shogo Kawada, of the previous Program.

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